- Why is this day so called?
- Because on this day the Church celebrates the finding, by Saint Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, of the cross on which Christ died, after it had been for a long time lost.
- Where had the holy cross been up to the time that it was thus found again?
- At Jerusalem, near the holy sepulchre, hidden under a mass of rubbish. For the Emperor Adrian endeavored not only to desecrate the holy places of the death and burial of Jesus Christ, but also to hide the very knowledge of them. The cave of the holy sepulchre was filled up, and by the erection of a temple of Venus, built over the spot, came to be quite lost sight of.
O God, Who, in the miraculous finding of the saving cross, didst revive the miracles of Thy passion, grant that, by the ransom paid on the wood of life, we may obtain the suffrages of life eternal. Who livest and reignest, etc.
Epistle: Philemon 2:5-11
Brethren: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himsesf, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted Him, and hath given Him a name which is above all names, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.
Gospel: John 3:1-15
At that time there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night, and said to Him: Rabbi, we know that Thou art come a teacher from God, for no man can do these signs which Thou dost, unless God be with him. Jesus answered, and said to him: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith to Him: How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born again? Jesus answered: Amen, Amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Wonder not, that I said to thee, you must be born again. The Spirit breatheth where He will; and thou hearest His voice, but thou knowest not whence He cometh or whither He goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered, and said to Him: How can these things be done? Jesus answered, and said to him: Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things? Amen, amen, I say to thee, that we speak what we know, and we testify what we have seen, and you receive not our testimony. If I have spoken to you earthly things, and you believe not: how will you believe if I shall speak to you heavenly things? And no man hath ascended into heaven, but He that descended from heaven, the Son of man Who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.
Salutation of the Church to the Holy Cross
O glorious and venerable cross! O precious wood! O wonderful sign, by which sin, the devil, and tell were overcome, and the world redeemed through the blood of Christ, thou art exalted above all the cedars of the forest, for on thee hung the life of the world! On thee Christ gained the victory, and by His dying overcame death forever. Alleluia.
O Lord Jesus Christ, we adore and bless Thee; for through Thy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
On the Sign of the Cross
- Why do we sign ourselves with the sign of the cross?
- To testify that we are Christians and worshippers of the Crucified.
- To profess our faith in the Most Holy Trinity.
- In honor and thankful remembrance of the sufferings and death of Christ.
- In order to overcome the devil and his temptations, inasmuch as he is by nothing more easily driven away than by the sign of the cross.
- Is it an old custom to make the sign of the cross?
- The earliest fathers of the Church make mention of this custom, and say that it came to them from the apostles; nay, they charge Christians to make the sign of the cross at eating and drinking, at walking and rising, at sitting and speaking, and, in a word, before every undertaking.
- Why do the priests at divine service make the sign of the cross over the people?
- That therewith there may be imparted to Christians the abundant blessing of grace which Christ has obtained for us by His cross, as Saint Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). This custom is of great antiquity in the Church. The Council of Agde, for example, in the year 506, directed that after prayers the people should be dismissed by the priest with a blessing.